News of Emma Pooley's return to WorldTour racing may have gone under the radar but the former world champion is relishing the chance to line up at the Santos Women's Tour as part of the Australian NRS Holden team.
Pooley regularly trains in Australia during the British winter and has even raced a few local events in Perth over the last few weeks. However, the return to the WorldTour ranks marks a significant change in gear.
"A friend of mine was meant to race Tour Down Under and they had space on her team," Pooley modestly told Cyclingnews before arriving in Adelaide on Friday.
"It sounded like fun and I wanted to race for her but she's unfortunately injured. I've done a few local races in Perth as I've been in Australia since the start of November. I did a crit and a kermesse and last week I did a master's race. Bike races can be really good training and there's nothing like a stage race to make you work hard. I've also been coming to Australia for a number of years and not yet done the Tour Down Under."
This year's women's race is stacked with talent with a number of top ranking teams opening their seasons in Australia. Pooley is no stranger to world-class fields, and although the nature of the terrain at the race is not perfectly suited to her skill set, she should be a competitive force during the two main road stages.
"I've no idea about my form. A lot of the girls who have been racing here will be in really good shape because the Australian's are in their summer and they've just had nationals. I'm under no illusions but I'd like to do a decent job for the team. I'm hoping that I'll be in the mix and I've been training lots."
From the Tour Down Under Pooley will head to Cadel Evans' race. Her schedule for the rest of the year is already taking shape and although she will not rule out racing on the road in Europe, the majority of her 2017 will once again focus on long distance events. She is currently waiting for a custom bike built by Bond to be delivered before her major season objectives.
"It's a bit unlikely I'll race road much more because with the European teams it's different. I'd need to be properly on a team and it's a bit harder to guest in Europe. It's possible, and I wouldn't rule it out, and I've got nothing against road racing but I've got a fairly full calendar as it is."
While her aspirations at the Tour Down Under remain modest, Pooley is enjoying her dabble in road racing after a difficult 2016 season.
"Last year I didn't really feel very good in a road race but I think I've learned how to really push myself in a road race. I've missed that and obviously it's really good training. I think that last year… I just don't think I got into that shape where I could go really hard. It was a bit of a hangover from a tiring 2015. I'm enjoying the painful rush that road racing gives you."
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